It's not often I meet people from the top of the league. Last night, in my capacity as a small, nay micro, businessman (see http://www.bigswiftycompany.blogspot.com/) I attended a Question Time session where a panel mainly of local politicians and prospective MPs answered questions from the floor. After the session North Essex MP Bernard Jenkin came over to me, shook my hand, and said "hello again Andrew, how are you?". In my earlier working life as a local Transport Policy person I had met the Honourable Mr Jenkin a couple of times, a good few years ago; he was Shadow Secretary of State for Transport at the time. I was surprised he recognised and remembered me, but I suspect it was because earlier that evening he read my lapel badge or saw me on the guest list, and was exercising a good schmoozing technique.
And why is he the top of the league politician? In October 2009, as a result of the initial recommendations of Sir Thomas Legg's audit following the disclosure of expenses, Legg recommended that Jenkin pay back over £63,000 - the highest amount to have been requested from any Member of Parliament. Mr Jenkin has made representations to Sir Thomas Legg's inquiry and his repayment has recently been halved, knocking him off the top of the expenses repayment league.
I'm very angry about this whole issue, and I apologise to any of my followers in that I didn't take the opportunity to give him, our (the public's) views on his personal use of public money. As always, Jenkin was totally charming, and urged me to cycle home carefully as the roads were icy.
Meanwhile, I was enjoying the spectacle of the business community requesting reduced business rates and less regulations, whilst requesting restrictive practices and special concessions to give local businesses council contracts even if it costs us taxpayers more, which is a funny kind of "get-the-government-off-our-backs free-market economy".
I felt like I'd slipped back thirty years some of the time, with the floor's clamour for colleges to produce less hairdressers, comments about foreigners, the poor quality of the young people wanting jobs today, the benefits culture, and the FSB host addressing the audience collectively as "gentlemen", even though there were, gasp, about 15% women there.
With my liberal attitudes, I felt like the ugly duckling amidst these swans of industry.